This has been a spectacular summer. Really. This has been the kind of summer I remember from kid-hood: long strings of sunny, followed by soft nights of starry.
Then a day of sprinkly little rains, followed by a touch of hot-hot-hot, with a dollop of humid on top.
Then a big soaking rain, with an apocalypse-like fire sky, followed by a day of blue with greeny-green grass and dancing flowers and sudden tomatoes.
When I am sitting in front of my SAD light in January, huddled in my polarfleece, with a gun-metal sky holding me hostage to another 8 weeks of drear, I want to look back at this entry and remember summer:
I’m feeling a little uneasy tonight. I just got home from teaching my Monday night class, the one for advanced beginners and intermediate students, and I think I may have gone a little too far with them.
We did a practice that I poetically refer to as, “A Whole Lotta Suns With Some Other Crazy Shit Thrown In Just to Make It Interesting.”
(I think I might have to copyright this sequence, actually.)
It was hard, no question of it, but it wasn’t impossible. I thought it was awesome, but at the end, everyone just shot out of there like bats out of hell. Linda R. stared at me at the end of class, (sans bliss) and I said, “What?? Sometimes you have to blow out the pipes, right?”
She continued to stare.
She’s usually up for anything, but that practice may have been a little too much, even for her.
I have been upping the intensity of my own practice lately, with astonishing results. I collapse onto my mat at the end and drop into another realm of consciousness. And that’s what I want my students to experience, too.
THAT OTHER LEVEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
And if there is one thing I am learning from Pranakriya Yoga it’s that you can’t get there without breaking through the usual, the normal, the comfortable, the comforting, the familiar, the easy.
But it can hurt to break through. It can be uncomfortable and disconcerting and it can raise doubts about what the hell you are doing, and what is the point.
I feel conflicted. On the one hand I want to give my students the practice they want, the practice they love, the practice they can do, and feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery doing.
On the other hand I know it’s the uncomfortable practice, the practice that makes them struggle and sweat and feel incompetent that will facilitate the breakthrough. But tonight I may have pushed some of them over the edge.
It’s hard to know what to do sometimes.
It’s hard, because everyone comes to a yoga practice for a different reason. Just because I want to reach new levels, new realms, new states of consciousness, doesn’t mean everyone wants that.
Some people just want to be able to do a decent forward bend or get their heels to the mat in Downward-facing Dog.
I get that. I support that. I really do.
But the students who have been dedicated to a practice for a number of years? Is a better asana practice all they want? I don’t know… Maybe it is. Maybe I should let them tell me if they want to go deeper. Maybe I shouldn’t assume…
One thing I do know though, is that while I can be happy teaching asana some of the time, even most of the time, what I really want to do is facilitate travel to other realms.
I want to be a sort of travel agent, help book flights, tell students what to pack, and then see them off with a full complete breath and a Namaste.
I just finished reading The Go-Giver by by Bob Burg and John David Mann.
It’s one of those fable-type books you either love or hate. Here’s the basic formula: a poor misguided shmo learns an important life lesson from a enlightened being masquerading as a humble little nobody (or a seagull).
Here are some other examples of this genre: (I’ve read them all.)
Even though none of them are literary masterpieces, I have a real soft spot in my heart (some would say “brain”) for them.
I underline passages, and put quotes from them on index cards and prop them on my desk so I’ll remember them. And I do tend to remember these books long after I’ve totally forgotten the plot of such”serious” fiction as Henry James’ The Golden Bowl, for example. (so much for all the $$ I spent in grad school.)
The plot of the The Go-Giver revolves around this go-getter business guy who thinks the way to get ahead is to aggressively out-scramble and out-maneuver his competition. In the end he learns that in order to become truly, even stratospherically, successful, he has to become a “go-giver” instead of a “go-getter.”
Here are the things the protagonist learns:
Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.
It’s a long “afternoon-in-the-hammock” kind of read.
It’s sweet. I learned from it. Put it on your list.
Just got back from a trip to Asheville, NC and have been doing laundry and putting the house to rights all day.
In about an hour I will be heading out to see the documentary Split Estate.
Why do I do this to myself??? I predict it will suck me into the sadness and despair pit just like Gasland did but, I really have to KNOW, you know?
I sometimes think that a lot of people are just averting their eyes to what is happening, pretending that it’s going to be alright, telling themselves that what happened other places won’t happen here, etc. etc.
Maybe they’re right. I hope so, but it doesn’t seem likely…
So before I “go down” again, here’s the narrative of a most happy trip to a most beautiful and fun town: Asheville!
We rented a loft through a website called Vacation Rentals by Owner. So pretty! So comfy! So right in the middle of everything!
Here’s the living room and kitchen:
Every morning we walked to a cafe for breakfast that made fresh juice. (Not as complex as my High Octane Rocket Fuel, but the concoction they called “The Red Planet” was superb. Apple, carrot, beet and ginger. The place composted and recycled everything and had solar panels on the roof that heated all the hot water. Loved it!
Here’s G standing in front of the place:
We spent one full day driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway in some of the sweetest mountains I have ever seen. Not majestic like the Sierras, but layered, one range behind another, behind another on into infinity. If we had had some more time, and some recommendations, we would have planned something. The hiking looks to be wonderful. (for the east.)
I took a yoga class at the Asheville Yoga Center, the place where my sub, Brenna, got her certification. I didn’t get to take a class with her teacher or the other one she recommended, but it was a good class. It was billed as a “Vigorous Flow” but I didn’t find it all that vigorous or all that flowy. It was good though, and I learned a great assist for handstand (which we did!! whoah!!)
One thing I have to say though is that I didn’t get the homey, everybody- knows-each-other, close tribe feeling I think a newcomer would immediately feel at Main Street Yoga. (As I was waiting to go into class another participant asked me, “Are you the teacher?”) The people didn’t seem to know one another.
I also really came to appreciate the beauty of my studio. I have such a pretty place. Not that I didn’t know it already, but I have a new appreciation for it. (and I missed it!)
We saw a lot of the city. Walked around most of it, drove through different neighborhoods, toured UNC Asheville (by car) and I have to say, the whole time I was there, in the back of my mind I wondered if I would run into Vince Horn.
Vince Horn has a podcast called Buddhist Geeks which is one of my very faves. He’s a great interviewer and gets incredible people on the show. I am a big fan of Buddhist Geeks and I follow them on Facebook, and I follow Vince himself on Twitter and on Facebook so I know something of his personal life.
One thing I know is that he and his wife just moved to Asheville from Boulder in the past month. That’s why I wondered if I would see him. Maybe at Whole Foods or something? Could happen.
On our last night we went to a wine/tapas bar called Sante. I love to try new wines and this place had flights, which I adore because you get to try half-glass samples of 4 different wines. Their featured flight that night was Spanish wines, which I don’t usually drink and know nothing about, so that was exciting. We ordered olives and nuts and a salad and cheese and crackers and sat and talked and sipped and nibbled and people-watched on the veranda. My favorite of the Spanish wines was one called Albarino. It was a white, which aren’t usually my preference, but this was tasty and I bought a bottle for home.
So as we meandered our way back to the loft after a perfectly lovely evening we passed a couple on the sidewalk and “Holy shit!” I said to G. “I think we just passed Vince Horn!!”
“You should go say Hi,” she said.
“You think??” I said. “He won’t think I’m some stalker-ish psycho-fan? Isn’t it too embarrassing?”
“No, go!” she said.
And I did.
I caught up with him and his wife just as some man started asking them for directions.
I introduced myself and said all kinds of silly fan-things, and he actually remembered that he follows me on Facebook (really??) and happily I had my camera with me and his wife, Emily, took our picture.
So, here’s me with Vince Horn!
He was very cool, and gracious and really, really sweet. I was stoked. (And admittedly a little tipsy from the flight of Spanish wines!)
So our trip was good, and tomorrow afternoon I get to teach Happy Hour and I can’t wait.
I am going to try to get back to writing here regularly, but it will mean that I will have to “write around” my anxiety about living in Gasland. It is ever present in my thoughts but I don’t think writing about it here will solve or resolve anything.
I’m going to have to ignore the elephant in the room and just write about the carpeting and the table cloth and the chandelier.
My friend Michelle has a new baby. I fully expect her to walk into the studio one day soon and garumph: “I wish these things came with instructions ’cause I’ll be dammed if I know how this kid works!!”
Babies don’t come with instructions, sadly. None of us do. But our cars do. And so do our washer/dryers and our DVD players.
But wouldn’t it be fantastic if we did come with some instructions? A little booklet labeling all our parts and what they do and how to fix them if they stop working?
With “Owner’s Manuals” in hand, we could look up how to replace a fuse or where the jack points were when we had to fix a flat, or how to adjust the steering wheel, and what to do if our airbag deployed.
Then, wouldn’t it be great if we could just hand our “Owner’s Manual” to our mothers, our spouses, our children, our bosses, and say, “Here, look on p. 32 to know what to do when I’m running hot.” And there, on p. 32 it would say, “Send flowers for no reason.”
With instruction manual in hand, they would know if this was a good time to move in for a long heart-to-heart, or if the fix was to just give us a lot of breathing space.
We are so complex, aren’t we? And we’re all so different in our needs and in the ways we operate. We need manuals!
We don’t come with them, I know, but c’mon, once we’ve reached a certain age, we KNOW how we operate. And think of how great it would it be, not to mention how much misunderstanding it could avoid, and time it would save, if we just wrote it all down and gave it to the people we live with?
That’s been my project this year: to write my personal Owner’s Manual. How Kath Works.
There’s stuff in there about what to do if I go flat, if my door jams, if I don’t start, if my windows stop working, what to fuel me with for best performance, how to replace my spark plugs, how to read my instrument panel.
After I complete my manual, I will use it as a template and make one that you can use to make your own.
It’s been an absorbing and fun project. My engine has been really running rough since I watched Gasland. There’s been an ominous rattling sound coming from under the hood and nothing in the manual thusfar suggests a fix.
So I had to learn about it, and come up with one.
And what I discovered in the past few weeks is that when that kind of sound is heard I need to get in there and find the source of the dissonance.
And the way I “search” is by cleaning and purging my physical environment.
It has always been this way for me. Whenever I cannot figure something out, I clean. I organize. I throw things out. I polish. I create filing systems. I iron.
Cleaning is a symbolic ritual. In the act of cleaning my physical environment: pressing, dumping, organizing, dusting, tidying, I gain clarity on my “issues” as well. Cleaning gives me time to think. As I dump stuff and things, my mind dumps its toxic load into the task at hand, and becomes clean and clarified as well.
The thing rattling ominously under my hood (hood=mind) was Truth. I had buried it there under comfy-ness and complacency and an unwillingness to be uncomfortable.
Gasland has forced me to look at where I live, and why I live here. It’s forced me to define what “quality of life” consists of for me, and what I need from my “place.”
It has brought me to my edge. It has forced me to define what I really value and what I am willing to fight for, and what I’m not.
The “fix” for what’s rattling under the hood is not going to be easy. It won’t get fixed in one session in the shop. But I have an “action plan” in place now. I can drive again, because now I know what’s causing the rattle. It’s serious, but not fatal.
Hopefully I can deal with it for a few more miles until I have to take dramatic action. I am not a person who can “cross her fingers and hope for the best.”
I need to act. I also don’t believe in wishful thinking, nor do I trust that people will do the right thing. I don’t believe that “something good will come out of this.”
Nothing good will come out of this. But at least I can see what’s happening and I have a plan for survival.